Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region volunteers, supporters and beneficiaries will say their final goodbyes to the longtime voice and face of the education-friendly organization later this week at a retirement reception honoring the career of its outgoing president, Sandy Moore.
The informal drop-in gathering is set for Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce offices in The Village Green.
A 20-year JA advocate whose last 11 have been spent at the helm of the local nonprofit, Moore is known throughout the five-county service region as an avid partner to public education. Her performance-driven goals have concentrated on preparing students for the real world, and not just in academics but in life skills preparation, financial literacy and career awareness, according to Rick Platz, JA board chairman.
“Sandy returned to Cleveland [11 years ago] to take the reins of JA at a very critical time in the organization’s history,” Platz told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “With the help of key board members, she restored financial stability to JA, and then led the charge to take JA to a new level. She will be sorely missed!”
Although Friday is her final day as president, Moore is not leaving Junior Achievement altogether. She will remain a volunteer and will concentrate her efforts on classroom instruction, volunteer recruitment and public awareness, especially in some of the more rural areas within the JA region. The local nonprofit reaches out to school systems in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Meigs and Polk counties.
“Although she says she’s ready for retirement, Sandy has agreed to remain active in the organization,” Platz said. “We owe her a big thanks for her 20 years of dedication to serving Junior Achievement.”
That’s the purpose of Thursday’s reception — to give local government leaders, education professionals, students, JA volunteers, other nonprofit organizations and the community the opportunity to salute her involvement in the lives of area students, their respective schools and school systems, and their parents, Platz explained.
The board chairman said the retirement gathering will not include a formal program, speeches or presentations. Instead, it is intended more as a “meet and greet” in reverse.
In her 20 years of service to JA, Moore has worked in a variety of positions with affiliates across the country. She is concluding her career in a leadership role within the same community where she started — Bradley County and the surrounding region. In 1983, she joined the local affiliate as executive director when it was known as Junior Achievement of Bradley & McMinn Counties. She also served as senior program manager of the JA affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., vice president of operations for Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee and director of marketing for the JA affiliate in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Following several years of working in the private sector, Moore returned to Cleveland in 2001 to lead JA of the Ocoee Region at a time when the local nonprofit was struggling financially.
Coupled with strong support by several key board members and local businesses, Moore turned around the local affiliate’s fortunes and reinstated its deep partnerships with area education, Platz explained.
“Sandy will be greatly missed and her contributions to the organization have laid a strong foundation upon which to build JA’s future,” the chairman stressed.
Moore’s leadership has not gone unnoticed by Cleveland and Bradley County community leaders, especially by two local mayors who shared the same sentiments as Platz.
“Sandy’s dedication to area youth and her leadership at the helm of Junior Achievement truly will be missed,” Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said. “Under her guidance, JA has had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of young people who are now better prepared for the real world. I wish Sandy the very best in her retirement.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland praised the soon-to-be retiree for her vision in growing the JA organization into a more meaningful alliance with area school systems.
“Junior Achievement will miss Sandy,” Rowland stressed. “She has poured her heart into making it first class. Sandy’s leadership has brought JA to new heights.”
He pointed to the significance of Moore’s role in the development of young minds and their preparation for a career world well beyond education.
“The benefactors of Sandy’s dedication, and her commitment to education, are the many young people who have gone through the JA programs and developed the business leadership skills that will have a lasting effect on their lives,” Rowland said. “I wish her the very best on any future endeavor, including a relaxed retirement.”
Although Moore is retiring, it might not be as “relaxed” as most, given her penchant for staying involved in community campaigns. Too, she recognizes the challenges ahead for the nonprofit industry.
In an earlier interview with the Banner in June that led to a two-part series, Moore honed in on some specifics.
“One challenge for the Junior Achievement president will be understanding, and developing ways, to fit 40 hours into a 24-hour day,” she said. “Another will be to heighten the awareness of the people in the community of the impact that Junior Achievement has on the lives of our young people during their school years, and helping everyone to understand how relevant JA continues to be as a working partner to our local school systems.”
In the interview, Moore said she remains optimistic about JA’s future, but candidly pointed to the need for change in order to meet changing needs in education.
“I think Junior Achievement has a viable future,” she stressed. “JA will grow and change, and it will meet the needs of the community. But it will have to evolve. The mission of JA likely will remain the same, but new technologies and new goals will have to be embraced.”
Like any nonprofit, and whether the organizations are JA affiliates in Bradley County or anywhere across the nation, the immediate future is the biggest test, she believes.
“The next few years will be challenging for JA of the Ocoee Region — increased demand for programs in the outlying areas, increased need to recruit good volunteers, development of a much broader funding base and the implementation of new technologies ... these are some of the biggest issues,” Moore said in the earlier interview.